Lecturing Japanese High School Students

From the back of the room as students prepare to flow the debate.

Today was a very unique and exciting experience - teaching Japanese high school students. I started the day by (oddly enough) meeting Texans in the hotel lobby who are here in Fukoka just checking it out. We went to the school about 11, and then met the principal and had tea in her office and spoke with her while one of the English teachers translated. We then moved to the teacher's lounge for lunch and worked on the debates with two Americans who are in the Japanese English Teaching program (JET) and work for the consulate. This was the first debate of the tour where the Americans were on opposite sides in the debate.

I regret not taking a video of this, but it was really unavoidable. I sat at the back of the room and took photos of the event, but it's not the same as having a great video. The lecture went well, although I think I had trouble keeping my vocabulary to the level of 2nd year English students. There were a few frowning faces as I spoke, but I think it worked out well. The teachers seemed to enjoy it and thought it was good so I'm pleased. Many of the students' questions were excellent and I enjoyed answering them. Overall it was an experience I won't soon forget. It's not every day you are invited to speak about debate to such a great group.

When we first arrived at the school, we were asked to remove our shoes before entering and to put on slippers. We were introduced to the Principal, who was very excited to see us. She welcomed us into her amazingly large office, and presented her business card to us in formal Japanese style. Then we sat, and she had one of the English sensei translate for her as she spoke to us for a while.

Here is the coolest part. She told us that before she was a principal, she taught Japanese history so she expected us to learn some before we left Japan. I told her about my interest in Miyamoto Musashi. She was surprised, and then told me that her first job was teaching at a school set up by and run by his descendants. That is, she taught along side of Musashi's descendants. Oh man is that cool.

But that's not all we learned:

The school day, we learned, is really long in Japan. There are tutoring sessions that begin at 7:30AM and class begins at 8:30. School goes until 4:15PM, but then there is after school tutoring, sports practice, clubs, and "cram" school in the evenings where students go to off-site places to learn even more to advance in their classes. Overall it seems the day ends around 8PM for these students, only to begin again in less than 12 hours.

I now have some free time, so I plan to check out a nearby shrine, then we are having dinner with some University students, then beers later with one of the Americans we met earlier.